How to Fire Your Probate Lawyer
When you hire a probate lawyer, you’re the boss and can fire him at any time. At least in theory. In practice, firing an attorney can be complicated by the court itself and by the willingness of other lawyers to get involved.
And, if your probate lawyer is the estate’s personal representative, it will require an order from the judge to have her removed from this position.
Review the Payment Agreement
When you hired or retained the attorney, chances are you signed an agreement or made some verbal contract that could have some directions as to how to proceed if you want to terminate the relationship.
The attorney will be due all his fees and costs for services rendered up to the point of dismissal. The easiest thing to do is to simply pay him. If they were working on a contingency basis, ask for a detailed invoice. If there is a retainer that hasn’t been exhausted, ask for a refund.
Hire Another Lawyer
Before burning your bridges with your existing counsel, it’s a good idea to have another one lined up in advance.
This will prevent you from going without representation, and the new lawyer can also help you resolve any issues with the previous lawyer and offer perspective on the fees she might be charging.
Move to Court if Necessary
Your new lawyer will know whether it’s necessary to have the old attorney formally discharged by the court. In probate, this is not usually a problem unless the old attorney is the personal representative or trustee for the estate.
In these situations, there are specific reasons why the attorney can be removed, but they usually involve negligence or malfeasance. Try to have your new attorney persuade the old attorney to voluntarily withdraw.
Get Your File
If the matter is ongoing, you can have the old attorney ship your entire file to your new lawyer. But, since things can happen during shipping, you might just want to pick it up in person. In any event, your file is your property.
Tips and Warnings
- When you fire your lawyer, do it in writing and mail a certified copy so she knows to stop charging you as of a specific date and time. Telling lawyers you’re no longer going to pay them is usually quite effective at getting them to stop acting on your behalf.
- Not every undesirable legal outcome is your attorney’s fault. Getting a new lawyer just because something doesn’t go your way isn’t necessarily going to change the situation.
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